Some Thoughts on Broadband Speeds in the WFH Age

by @edent | # # # | 4 comments | Read ~171 times.

ISPs suck. They’re designed to. The A in ADSL stands for “Asymmetric”. That is, your download speed is faster than your upload speed. This makes sense for most domestic purposes. Most people suck down a lot more than they push up.

But we’ve now entered the (permanent?) work-from-home era. If you’re anything like me, you’re spending more time broadcasting video than you ever did before. It’s painfully obvious when you’re stuck on a video call with someone who has restricted upload speeds. Blocky video and garbled sound – getting worse if more people in the household are streaming at once.

Almost all ISPs sell connections this way. And, to be fair, it made sense. But it’s increasingly difficult to justify. Gamers want to stream, TikTokers want to meme, and boring old farts like me want HD video calls.

Before this all kicked off, I took the fastest upload package I could find.

A speed test result.

Over 300Mbps down is swish! And the 35 up is pretty decent – especially if both my wife and I are on calls. But I’d gladly trade some of my download speed for a faster upload speed.

So which mainstream ISP will be the first to market symmetric – or better – speeds for home workers? BT is apparently trialling it as part of their fibre roll out.

Of course, if you’re permanently working from home, perhaps it makes sense for people to go back to having a dedicated, separate line for work?

Either way, broadband speeds will have to change soon. People are beginning to send more data than ever before.

4 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Broadband Speeds in the WFH Age

  1. Ms. Jen says:

    I would love to have symmetric up and down, even if it was 25/25 or 50/50 as long as the latency was fast.

  2. Alex B says:

    I don’t think bandwidth – let alone symmetric bandwidth – is the be and end all.

    My ADSL2+ line is about 15Mbps down, and about 1.1Mbps up. Video conferencing works fine, with none of the problems you describe. It is a business class package with a predominantly business-focused ISP, costing nearly £40 per month. Until the last few months, there was no fibre spur into the building in which my home is located, so there was nothing better, short of getting a fixed 5G installation from e.g. Vodafone.

    Things that DO disrupt my working over this connection: ADSL retraining due to incoming voice calls, overloaded employer VPN services, latency introduced by employer DPI proxies, and having a relatively flat network on my side with no bandwidth management for e.g. streaming media and massive game updates.

  3. Ben Oliver says:

    I used to live in a building with FTTP. Gigabit fibre both ways, those were good times. It was Hyperoptic, Pine Media were also in the area. I managed to get 900Mbps down and 850 up, which is pretty good. I probably hit a limit on my end.

    Then I moved house. We only have ADSL2. 8 down, about 0.2 up. Painful.

    It was workable for download, but with video calls and VPN access in the lockdown we had to change this. My wife has a work NHS Windows laptop that seems to drink bandwidth even when not in use.

    So I got two SIM modems and set them up load-balanced to my router. Now I get ~40down ~20up on one client, and you can get that on two clients at the same time thanks to the load balancing. Latency is not great, but it’s working well.

    One issue is that the only decent signal for this was Vodafone. The problem is they have a hard block on websites that you cannot get around, even by disabling adult content block. (https://www.torproject.org/ is blocked, for instance)

    However, they are the only provider I can get any sort of speed on. ADSL barely works.

    So I set up a VPN on digital ocean, and connected each SIM through it. This gets around the block, and has the added benefit of giving you the same public IP even with the load balancing.

    It’s been a long lockdown…

  4. Qassim says:

    Before all this, I was considering downgrading my package to below gigabit as my contract was coming up for renewal. Near gigabit upload is still probably way more than I need, but I feel WFH has given me more appreciation of it..


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